Everyone Is Crazy Afraid

It’s amazing what fear can do.

It’s amazing what people will do when they are fearful. They go crazy. Man, do they go crazy.

If you don’t believe me, then consider this: A nutcase with a gun goes into an elementary school in the United States and kills teachers and little children. Normally you might expect a thunderous crescendo of noise calling for a ban on the proliferation of guns.

But exactly the opposite happened. People went out and bought more guns. There was a significant spike in the sale of guns after the Sandy Hook massacre.

Crazy.

But you need not be a rocket scientist to come up with the reason. People are afraid. Americans went out and bought more guns through fear. Yes fear. And fear becomes self-perpetuating. If more people have guns, it makes massacres of innocent people more likely, not less. In other words fear breeds more fear and stupidity. But I don’t want to talk about guns. I want to talk about fear. The more fearful we become, the greater the ignorance, the irrationality and stupidity of our actions.

Here’s another example: Brexit. I used to think the Poms were a bit measured and considered and less hair brained than their American cousins. But their decision to leave Europe was completely insane. Seriously, what were you thinking, English people? Has anyone in the UK looked at an Atlas lately? Geographically, you are part of Europe. No amount of wishful thinking is going to change that.

But I know why you did it. You were afraid. You were afraid of all those Syrian refugees somehow finding their way to the UK. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones fleeing war and oppression and ignorance and bigotry and zealotry. The ones who need someone to show them a bit of compassion. And if you stayed as a part of Europe, you were going to have to accept your share and do your bit. Anti immigration is fear. Xenophobia is fear. You don’t need to be afraid.

Fear has become our mantra especially when we are confronted with lone wolf terrorist attacks that inflict mass casualties. What happened in France, Germany and Turkey is appalling, unacceptable and outrageous. And when Governments are powerless to protect their citizens from these attacks, as they seemingly are, everyone becomes fearful and irrational. If Donald Trump becomes the next President of the United States, God forbid, it will be because Americans are afraid. They want a leader who they think will protect them. Who will talk and act tough and build walls to keep people out and ban people on the basis of their race or religion.

Little do they realize this only makes a bad situation much worse. Banning all Muslims or attacking all Muslims or excluding all Muslims because we are afraid of them only creates more fear. It makes Muslims fearful of us and the whole cycle self perpetuates. We need to break the cycle. Instead of fear, we need to show love and compassion and understanding and tolerance and be inclusive. As people, we are all in this together, irrespective of whether we are Muslim or Christian or any other religion you care to name. What happened in Nice and elsewhere was an attack on humanity. And as human beings we need to stand together and embrace one another. We need to reassure Muslims we don’t fear them nor should they fear us. The vast majority of Muslims don’t want to kill us nor do we want to kill them. There will always be individuals who are fanatics. Muslim and Christian alike.But these fanatics don’t speak for anyone except themselves. And when these fanatics attack some of us randomly, they are attacking all of us.

They are attacking humanity and it is humanity as a whole that needs to respond. Let me say it again. That means all of us in this together. Xenophobia was never a chapter in the guide book for being human.

We have to stop being afraid and start being inclusive.

Indiana’s Really Strange Religious Freedom Law Which Is Just An Excuse For Homophobia

America is a funny place. By that I mean peculiarly eccentric. And it’s not always in a good way. Take this as a for instance. The US State of Indiana has just passed a very strange law. It’s called a Religious Freedom Law. But it seems to me the only freedom it grants is the right to be a homophobic bigot. To put it plainly, the law permits individuals and businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion. In other words people can be denied service because of their sexual orientation and that denial is justified on the grounds of religious belief. It doesn’t take much imagination or ingenuity to figure that this law is directed at Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgender community. The Governor of Indiana, a man called Mike Pence, signed this into law. He says and I quote: ” The bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it was about discrimination, I would have vetoed it.” He’s entitled to his opinion, but civil liberties and gay rights groups have a very different take. They say this law asserts that the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” and that individuals who feel like their religious beliefs have been or could be “substantially burdened” can rely on this law to fend off lawsuits. Supporters of these laws talk of the example of a florist who refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding or a baker who refuses to make the couple’s wedding cake — and it’s clear this law is aimed at subverting any lawsuits that the florist or the baker might face.

But what about a restaurant that refuses to serve a gay couple, who simply want to sit down and enjoy a meal?

“It would foil any lawsuit against a supplier who acted on religious grounds, but the law can get squirrely, “ according to one legal analyst, adding that it’s likely that a refusal to serve a gay person would not be upheld under the law, but a refusal to provide a service for a gay wedding would.

Indiana is not the first state to implement this kind of a law.

It’s the 20th American state to adopt a “religious freedom restoration” law, most of which is modelled on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

But that law was passed in very different times with the backing of a broad-based coalition and wasn’t proposed against the backdrop of gay rights or the Tsunami of marriage equality laws sweeping the country in recent years.

The law in Indiana, came after an outcry from social conservative groups over publicity where business owners found themselves in hot water for refusing services to gay couples planning to get married.

In addition to those 20 American states, legislators in nine other states have introduced similar types of “religious freedom” laws — bills that either failed to go through in 2014 or are still up for consideration this year.

But a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, says those 20 laws are “dramatically different in their scope and effect.”

“Indiana is the broadest and most dangerous law of its kind in the country,” the spokesman said.

Arkansas’ legislature passed an Indiana-style law, which now heads to the state governor for approval.

Religious liberty — and using it to sabotage same-sex marriage and other gay rights — has become the rallying cry for social conservative groups in the past year as they watched one anti-gay marriage law after another get overturned in the courts. Thank God they were overturned.

What the Indiana Governor didn’t say was that standing behind him, as he signed the bill, were several socially conservative lobbyists, the very ones who pushed for the law and are fiercely opposed to same-sex marriage. One of the lobbyists, Eric Miller, wrote on his website that the law would protect businesses from participating in “homosexual marriage.” So much for being non discriminatory.

The Human Rights Campaign is in no doubt that the only reason these laws were passed was because of the legalising of same sex marriage. However,it is a high-risk political gamble. The States who want this type of law will have to calculate risk versus rewards. Are the rewards that come from the religious groups much greater than the financial cost they will have to wear in lost business?  Never underestimate the power of the pink dollar. You do so at your peril.

These “religious freedom restoration” laws have already been used as a legal defence to allegations of discrimination.

The Human Rights Campaign says there are several cases where individuals have used these laws in a courtroom — and not just in cases involving LGBT people and weddings. For example, a police officer in Oklahoma claimed a religious objection when he refused to police a mosque. Another police officer in Salt Lake City claimed “religious liberty” when he refused to police a gay pride parade. And a photographer in New Mexico used religious freedom as a defence for not serving a lesbian couple in 2013.

Ironically, 21 states currently have laws on their books prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And another nine have those protections, but just for public employees.

So how could a Religious Freedom Restoration law sit comfortably in an environment of laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation? The answer is they can’t. “They’ve basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it’s okay to discriminate against people,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign. Indiana is starting to discover that having discriminatory homophobic laws is not very helpful. Plenty of very large companies are moving to distance themselves from the Religious Restoration bill. For example, Cloud computer giant Salesforce, says it will cut back on its investments in the State of Indiana.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, in a Twitter post, said his company was “deeply disappointed,” and called on Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, to veto a similar measure.

” Apple is open to everyone,” Cook said.

Gen Con, the world’s largest gaming convention with 56,000 attendees last year, said it might stop holding the event in Indianapolis, the state’s main city. This would be a huge financial blow because it contributes more than $50 million to the economy.

The powerful National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is hosting the US men’s college basketball finals in Indianapolis next week, but the Association said it was “especially concerned” about how the law would affect its student athletes and employers. Hollywood stars joined the opposition via social media, where actor Ashton Kutcher likened the law to Anti-Semitism and singer Miley Cyrus directed an expletive at Indiana Governor Pence.

Fortunately, Gay rights have made big strides in recent years, with marriage equality recognized in 37 states after the US Supreme Court in 2013 ruled that federal law could not discriminate against married LGBT couples.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican who opposed the law, said he and other city officials would talk to businesses and convention planners to counter the uproar the law has caused. “I’m more concerned about making sure that everyone knows they can come (here).”

Around the state, bumper stickers saying: “This business serves everyone” have begun appearing in many business windows, and groups such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce have taken to social media with messages that the state is welcoming to all businesses. The stakes in this are pretty high. Indianapolis’ tourism and convention business is estimated to generate $4.4 billion annually and create 75,000 jobs. Chris Gahl, a vice president with the tourism agency Visit Indy, said: “We know that their ability to work is largely dependent on our ability to score convention business and draw in events and visitors.”

Unless Indiana wakes up and smells the coffee and abandons plans to introduce such a discriminatory law, it is going to be hit in a place that will hurt the most. The good old hip pocket nerve. And, quite frankly, so they should.

Til Death Us Do Part, But Only If I Know All Of Your Secrets And Lies

Every now and again, I get reminded of what a strange, strange, world we live in. Mad even. Hollywood once made a very funny (I thought it was hilarious) movie called: It’s a mad, mad world. It shows how a bunch of strangers can, through the right set of circumstances, behave completely irrationally and out of character or simply show their true nature. Take your pick. In truth it’s probably a bit of both. And once the dye is cast there is no end to the madness.

These days, social media seems to act like a full moon and make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. Here are the latest pieces of insanity currently in vogue. As you might expect, it’s got a lot to do with men and women getting together. But first we must ask the leading question: How well do you know your significant other? It’s a question having a major effect on how we shape our dating experience. People are using web searches and social media to investigate a person’s history before they even go on first date. A recent survey discovered that information from Facebook is now being used in a third of all divorce cases as well. With social media we can discover all sorts of information about another person such as previous employment, old flames, school sports teams and last week’s embarrassing party photos. But getting back to the question: How well do you know your significant other? The answer is not very well at all according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the information gap is so alarming for some, that they are employing, wait for it, private investigators to look into the background of their significant other before contemplating a tying of the knot. According to the report, private investigators across the Unites States are saying that business is booming in recent years from clients who basically “ want their sweethearts investigated for potentially deal breaking habits and secrets.”

You might think it a little strange that this trend is taking off now. After all, we seem to know more about a potential spouse now than ever before. But one reason might have something to do with what I would call perverse psychology. One private investigator told the Wall Street Journal that all of this available data is actually inciting people into seeking even more information: “What they are getting is just enough information to make them curious.”

But it’s not just the availability of information about a partner’s past that is fuelling this trend. It’s also because these days, many of us seem to have more of a past worth investigating. “In a world where people are taking longer to get married, and accumulating more relationship baggage, I think many adults today are understandably nervous about going ahead with a major relationship commitment or engagement,” says Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project. He notes that given this long pathway that men and women are taking to marriage, “it’s no surprise that people are hiring private detectives or other services to look into their partner’s background.”

According to the Wall Street Journal report, while some of us may think that being choosy about who to marry and therefore trying out multiple long term relationships will help to make us as sure as we can be about the person we eventually settle down with, the opposite may be true. The more relationships we have before marriage, the more likely we are to cheat on a spouse. The report says having all these relationships (and getting to watch on Facebook the lives of the ones who got away) only makes it harder not easier to reach a decision about who to marry. It’s an interesting perspective. The report goes on to say that once we marry, it can have the effect of making us less satisfied with our choice. We crave more and more information in order to be sure we’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right, but how much is too much? Don’t we already have enough background to judge whether our partner is the one? After all, two thirds of couples who married in 2012, lived together for more than two years before they walked down the aisle. We already know our partner’s preferences when it comes to everything, especially their favourites, from brand of toothpaste to sexual positions. So what’s left? A lot, as it turns out. One relationship expert researching a book on interfaith marriage, was surprised to learn that more than half of the couples didn’t talk about how they wanted to raise their children before they sealed the deal (and that was just among the ones who already had kids).

She wrote: “ How is it possible that in all the deep, late night conversations that led you to believe this person was your soul mate you never got around to ( talking about) faith and family? “

So is it all about having the right conversation and asking the right questions of each other? The report goes on to say that the information gap is not limited to religion. It also concerns finances. In her book, The Starter Marriage And The Future of Matrimony, Pamela Paul wrote about couples who failed to reveal to each other that they had major financial debts. One woman neglected to tell her husband that, for a number of years, she earned no income and her father was paying all of her expenses. How does this kind of information, you might ask, just slip through the cracks in long term relationships? According to the experts, for one thing, we don’t often get the right input from our family and community when it comes to significant others. In her book, Pamela Paul reports, that “all the divorcees (she) interviewed said their parents gave them no direction about marriage beyond telling them upon their engagement it’s as long as you’re happy.”  And as much as we might think living together is the ultimate test for whether a relationship will succeed, the reality of the matter may be completely different. According to these experts it is very easy to live under the same roof with someone and not have any conversations about planning for the future. You can chat endlessly about who leaves dirty laundry on the floor or whether they’ve ever mopped a kitchen floor but what about having the serious chats about finances or children? Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, recently told the Atlantic magazine, that “Living together doesn’t charm or doom you; it is not whether you live with your partner as much as how you live with your partner.” She added, “I am not against living together, but I am for, young adults being more aware that it is an arrangement that has upsides and downsides.” One of the downsides is surely that cohabitation often gives people the illusion of true intimacy while at the same time allowing partners to conceal the most important pieces of information. But, is hiring a private Investigator really the solution to discovering this kind of information? You could always try being a bit more of an open book. You might also find you achieve the same result without the aggravation or the expense.

Don’t Talk About This…We’re Catholic

For the record, I’m not a religious person. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I just don’t believe in organized religion per se. But it won’t ever stop me, from keeping a weather eye on the latest developments so to speak. Especially, if someone, somewhere manages to upset the apple cart of established thinking.

For example, the apple cart was upset at the Catholic Church, Vatican Synod on the family earlier this week. Six couples were chosen to address 200 bishops from around the world. One of the couples happened to be Australian. Their names were Ron and Mavis Pirola, who are both lifelong Catholics. The Pirola’s are also former members of the Pontifical Council for the Family and Directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.

Clearly, they are well qualified to talk on the issue of marriage and the family but if the synod had known in advance what they were going to say they might have withdrawn the invitation.

Ron and Mavis Pirola devoted almost their entire address to the topic of sex. As the parents of four children,you could say it was a topic they were suitably qualified to talk about. But sharing it with a wider audience, especially a wider audience comprising 200 Catholic bishops was a tad indiscreet. Talking about the joys of sex to this audience is a bit like serving up roast pork at a bar mitzvah.

The Pirolas’ talked about how married couples needed to view sex as an essential foundation for their relationship and how spirituality and sexual attraction had brought the two of them together and sustained their marriage for more than half a century.

But wait there’s more. The attraction that they first felt for each other and the force that continued to bind them both together was basically sexual. The little things they did for each other, the telephone calls, the love notes, they way they planned the day around each other and things they shared were outward expressions of their longing to be intimate with each other.

I can hear you clamoring to yell what is wrong with saying all of that? Surely it is a no brainer and perfectly reasonable in a loving relationship between a man and a woman? Not a problem from my perspective. In fact I agree with all of it. But I was not one of 200 Catholic Bishops, who took a vow of celibacy  who are sitting there listening to this. They did have a problem.

Now at this point you might think the Pirolas’ would be thinking maybe we should sit down and shut up. But if you did you’d be wrong. There was no way they were done talking. The next issue to be tackled in their presentation was homosexuality. The couple told the synod that the inclusion of homosexuals into the church would be a “ model of evangelization” for parishes all over the world.

The Pirolas spoke of how some friends were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home as well. This couple fully believed in the teachings of the Catholic church. They knew their grandchildren would see them welcome their son and his gay partner into the family. But their response could be summed up in four words: He is our son.

Of course I wasn’t sitting in the audience listening to this, but in my mind’s eye I can see some Bishops moving very uncomfortably in their seats as the voices of the Pirola’s are ringing in their ears.

And seemingly without drawing breath, Ron and Mavis Pirola had one final parting shot to deliver. They called on church documents to be updated for modern-day Catholics and for future generations. The church needed new ways and relatable language to touch people’s hearts. Compared to what they had already said this was a mere bagatelle.

Then the Pirolas’ sat down, to stunned silence. According to observers, the audience was left completely speechless. But, in a later moment of candor, one of the synod members, a British Cardinal remarked drily, that Catholic Bishops don’t talk about these topics.

I’m sure they don’t. I’m sure they should. I just wished I’d been there to hear Ron and Mavis Pirola.